Report: North Korean EMP attack would devastate Hawaii

by WorldTribune Staff, May 15, 2017

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack by North Korea would devastate Hawaii, knocking out virtually everything that runs on electricity within minutes, a report said.

Defense analysts said Hawaii could be targeted by North Korea, which continues to develop its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, reported on May 13.

Hawaii is home to 11 military bases and U.S. Pacific Command’s HQ.

Hawaii is seen as a desirable target as it is headquarters for U.S. Pacific Command and has 11 military bases, including Pearl Harbor, said Dean Cheng, senior research fellow with the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation.

A nuclear explosion that is executed high enough in the atmosphere could be hundreds of miles from Hawaii and still damage its operations and communications, the report said.

“This is not theoretical. It has already happened,” said Toby Clairmont, deputy administrator for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

On July 9, 1962, Hawaii was hit by a massive EMP attack after the U.S. government set off a 1.4-megaton nuclear warhead at a height of 248 miles above Johnston Atoll. The blast, which resulted from the “Starfish Prime” nuclear test, shut down the state’s communications systems and traffic lights.

The test caused radio disruptions in Hawaii, California, and Alaska, and knocked out six satellites above the Pacific.

“No one expected the test to impact Hawaii, because it was 850 miles away,” said Clairmont. “This kind of blast does not hurt people, but as we’ve seen, it shuts down power and phones and goes after infrastructure and could cause problems at medical facilities.”

Dave Benham, spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command, said his agency is ready to counter any threat to U.S. interests in an area of responsibility that spans half the globe.

“The No. 1 threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” Benham said.

In 2004, a congressional commission of scientific and military experts warned that an EMP attack could cause a massive blackout and damage U.S. financial and power networks.

“Depending on the specific characteristics of the attacks, unprecedented cascading failures of our major infrastructures could result,” the 2004 commission said in a statement. “In that event, a regional or national recovery would be long and difficult and would seriously degrade the safety and overall viability of our nation.”